Sylvia Robinson

Sylvia Robinson (March 6, 1936 — Sept. 29, 2011) was an American singer, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur from N.Y.C. who first emerged in the R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia during the mid-1950s. In 1973, she reemerged as a solo artist with the album Pillow Talk, followed by a self-titled album in 1976 and two further albums in 1977. All four albums were issued on Vibration, her self-established division of All Platinum Enterprises.

She was born Sylvia Vanterpool on March 6, 1936, in Harlem, the fifth child and third daughter borne to Herbert and Ida Vanterpool, a migrant couple from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.[1]

At age 14, she left school to start her music career under the stage name Little Sylvia. Backed by the Heywood Henry Orchestra, she issued her first single, the sax-driven proto-rocker “Little Boy” (b/w “How Long Must I Be Blue”), in 1951 on Savoy Records. Despite her young age at the time of recording, she delivers the song in a full-voice mezzo.

In 1952, she issued two songs on Atlantic-subsidiary Jubilee with backing by Buddy Lucas and His Band of Tomorrow: the bare, emotive ballad “A Million Tears” (b/w “I Found Somebody to Love”) and the boogie-woogie piano rocker “Drive Daddy Drive” (b/w “I Went to Your Wedding”). Her third Jubilee single, 1953’s “The Ring,” features her first co-writing credit (as Vanderpool) on the romantic, cocktail-ballad b-side “Blue Heaven.”

Her final single with the “Little” prefix, the guitar/sax boogie-rocker “Fine Love” (b/w the brisk jump-blues “Speedy Life”), appeared in 1954 on Atlantic-subsidiary Cat. The record is co-credited to Mickey Baker and His Band.

Baker taught Sylvia guitar and they formed the R&B/rock duo Micky & Sylvia. In 1955, they issued three singles on Rainbow Records: “I’m So Glad” (b/w “Se De Boom Run Dun”), “Rise Sally Rise” (b/w “Forever and a Day”), and “Where Is My Honey” (b/w “Seems Like Just Yesterday”).

As rock n’ roll broke nationally in 1956, Micky & Sylvia issued two singles on RCA-subsidiary Groove: “No Good Lover” (b/w “Walkin’ in the Rain”) and “Love Is Strange” (b/w “I’m Going Home”). With its Bo Diddley riff, “Love Is Strange” topped the R&B chart and scaled the upper-reaches of Billboard (#11) and Cash Box (#7) in early 1957.

On the Groove follow-through label Vik, Micky & Sylvia issued four 1957 singles: “Two Shadows On Your Window” (b/w “Love Will Make You Fail In School”), “Where Is My Honey” (b/w “There´ll Be No Backin´Out”), “There Oughta Be a Law” (b/w “Dearest”), and “Love Is a Treasure” (b/w “Let’s Have a Picnic”).

In 1958, the pair issued two further Vik singles: “It’s You I Love” (b/w “True True Love”) and “Bewildered” (b/w “Rock and Stroll Room”). After one single on RCA, “Oh Yeah! Uh Huh” (b/w “To the Valley”), Micky & Sylvia briefly parted ways. In May 1959, she married businessman Joseph Robinson Sr., with whom she’d remain until his death in 2000.

In 1960, she issued a one-off single as Sylvia Robbins on Moonglow: the string-laden, 12-bar pop drama “Frankie and Johnny” (b/w “Come Home”). That same year, she produced the single “You Talk Too Much” for R&B singer Joe Jones.

(more to come…)




  1. Herbert Vanterpool in the 1940 Census

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